Trinidad and Tobago are rich in natural resources but at the mercy of disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes. As the country looks to diversify its economy away from fossil fuels and into sectors that support the long-term development of the economy, public officials are under pressure: competition for new investment and resources is high and timeframes are short. Without careful planning, informed by high-quality, disaggregated data, vulnerable groups, including women and girls, may miss out on opportunities for development; or even see their current situation worsen. Aisha, a Senior Land Use Planner with over ten years of experience working in Trinidad, needs to take this into consideration in her daily work life.
Aisha’s career started when she inadvertently discovered a passion for social planning during her undergraduate degree. This first led her into working on community development planning for local government. As in many parts of the world, Trinidadians who live in rural communities or outside of urban centres have less access to social services, alongside challenges such as fewer job opportunities or longer commutes. With a particular interest in the gender side of planning, Aisha knows how these issues affect women to a greater degree than men. For example, the effects of phenomena like urbanisation impact women differently to men.
“In bigger cities, due to rapid urbanisation, there are long traffic jams. This presents a particular challenge for women who are responsible for most childcare to combine work and home life. We need to think more about how economic developments affect different groups. The needs of women are different to those of men.”
The social and environmental impact assessments that Aisha carries out are intended to understand the impact on people and to make policies inclusive. For example: what are the risks of building developments in certain areas? How might these affect vulnerable groups such as single-parent families or people who live in squatter communities? How does a new local port affect fishermen and fisherwomen? Attending the free online course on Communicating Gender Statistics for Gender Equality, developed by the Partnership in Statistics for Development in the 21st Century (PARIS21) and UN Women, helped her find some answers.
“The course taught me how to see people who were previously overlooked, and take into consideration their needs when we draw up land use policies and plans. For example, we need to think increasingly about disaster and risk management and emergency response, for this we need data on who should stay in their homes and who should be relocated. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic we have to use data to reimagine our public spaces and our communities.”
On a recent project, Aisha witnessed the difficulties of drawing up a definition when the national statistics office sought to define rural areas, something that had never been done before. Aisha appreciated the course’s focus on definition: “Definitions matter a lot in my work. Even though I was already aware of gender considerations, the course helped me to clarify definitions such as gender equity and gender parity. This has been very helpful.”
As a standalone SDG target, gender equality is rightly recognised as important. However, Aisha’s experience shows how gender equality is cross-cutting and has implications not only for those directly working on gender issues, but also for public and private sector employees to deliver better results for people through their work.
“When you understand statistics and can apply these in your work, many more people stand to benefit from development projects”
“At first I wasn’t sure if this course was suited to me as a public official, but I realised that if journalists and the public were sometimes misreading data, then it was likely public officials are too. I have since recommended the course to friends in the private sector because I feel that what I learnt can be more broadly applied.”
Explore the partner stories series to learn more about the PARIS21 network and its impact:
- Inclusive livelihoods for all: why subnational gender statistics in the Philippines matter (PARIS21, Philippine Statistics Authority, Philippine Statistical Research and Training Institute)
- Communicating on statistics to fight against VAWG in Jamaica (PARIS21, UN Women)
- Joining forces to fight domestic violence through stories and gender statistics (PARIS21, UN Women)